The movie adaptation of “Ready Player One” allowed author Ernest Cline to tweak some of the plotting and dramatic errors in the ending of his novel. And Cline makes the most of this mulligan. The solutions he finds for the dénouement in the movie are more intrinsic to the plot and fix a glaring Deus ex Machina with a much subtler fix. I won’t ruin it and tell you what he did, because the book was excellent and so is the movie. Go watch it and get the added benefit of experiencing Spielberg’s own prism on his movie’s past.
I imagine that Spielberg sees himself as the puckish, gee-whiz media mogul Halliday. And so I will ruin that plot point in the dénouement of the movie because it’s relevant. In the movie, Halliday’s avatar guides the hunt for the Easter Eggs he’s left behind in his work. And it’s difficult to watch this and not imagine that Spielberg is hoping future generations will mine his work for his its hidden messages also. And so Spielberg leaves one big Easter Egg at the end of the movie. Halliday’s avatar fades away, and it’s really him there. But when directly questioned, Halliday acknowledges that yes he has died. And yet there is he is. In other words, the soul of Halliday lives on in his creations. This is Spielberg chiseling the words on his own tombstone.
But there’s a shadow side to the story in the clichéd corporate villain Sorrento. If you ask me, the excellent actor Ben Mendelsohn looks beyond the character as written and tries to hint at the truth that Spielberg is unwilling or unable to face. Spielberg is as much Sorrento as he is Halliday. Not only was Spielberg a colossus of the fun and fictional pop culture of Generation X, he was also the colossus of the real world film industry. Spielberg owns the town that preaches dreams and reaps profits from the entire earth, and so if he were truly daring he would have looked deeper into the soul of his corporate villain.
It’s interesting that Cline rewrote his novel so that all of the Easter Eggs hinge on Halliday’s great regrets in life. And I think Spielberg would have been wise to follow suit. There’s an undiscovered country in this movie, where the great director fears to tread.
P.S. In one scene it is revealed that Sorrento was once an intern for the great genius Halliday. As someone who previously was an intern for Spielberg’s assistant, I’m a tad offended that answer to the whodunit, is the intern. Really, Spielberg? Really?